2016-12-29 / Outdoors

Deer herd on the decline? Corn growers scoff at notion

By Jay Bushen
Of The Enterprise staff


SOME HUNTERS say deer have been hard to come by this year. Others, like Ed Hallett of Omena, have seen deer walk up to doorsteps, as happed here on the Omena Peninsula. Photo: Ed Hallett SOME HUNTERS say deer have been hard to come by this year. Others, like Ed Hallett of Omena, have seen deer walk up to doorsteps, as happed here on the Omena Peninsula. Photo: Ed Hallett A story in the Dec. 15 edition of the Enterprise included a pair of county sportsmen who suggested Leelanau County’s deer herd is dropping.

Solon Township Supervisor Jim Lautner and other farmers reject the idea.

“They’re all over the place,” Lautner said of the herd. “We sure find them south of Cedar, in our area. We’ve got so many deer we don’t know what to do with them. In the springtime, in early April when it’s cold, you have no problem counting 150-200.”

It’s all about the food source, he said.

Lautner grows corn and soybeans, although he’s learned to stop planting soybeans near wooded areas.

“The deer eat them too fast,” he said. “We have to plant them close to the roads where cars drive by and scare the deer away. And any place you’ve got corn, you’ve got deer. My wife’s nephew just had seven bucks on a camera after the season was over with, down in the woods by my house. But corn and soybeans are their favorite food.”

Empire Township grower Casey Noonan, who will take over the District No. 6 seat on the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners this week, said he’s seen plenty of deer near the southern edge of the county.

Noonan said it not uncommon to see 30 deer at a time, and that a friend of his counted 62 in a rye field this year.

“There’s quite a bit of crop damage,” he said. “All farmers right now are under pretty heavy criticism for ... the deer herd. We get crop permits, but we don’t get many. We don’t want to decimate the deer herd, but we like to keep an even balance. Everyone thinks the farmers are out killing every deer they see. That’s not how we go about it.”

Noonan said he hasn’t seen any “monstrous” bucks so far this year, though he did harvest an 8-point.

Ed Hahnenberg of Lake Leelanau doesn’t hunt, but he’s certainly kept a close eye on the deer herd.

Hahnenberg said the two hunters on his property claim to have spotted 25 bucks on one deer-cam shot this fall.

“Every time I go out there when the snow falls there’s hundreds of deer tracks,” Hahnenberg said. “I know there’s still a heck of a lot of deer in our area and particularly on our property. We have 45 acres of commercial forestland — and that is just full of deer.”

Hahnenberg said deer have done a number on young apple trees but that sweet corn really brings them in.

“They come in and eat everything,” Hahnenberg said.

He said the plan is to bring more hunters to his property in 2017.

“I made a big mistake this year,” Hahnenberg said. “I didn’t send in by Sept. 30 the information about the hunters. I misread that, but next year I’ll have some more permits.

“The DNR is not seeing the deer. I don’t know if they go out there themselves, but they’re not going out there at the prime time when the deer are there in the evening or daybreak. They’re just not seeing them.”

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